Subway to the YMCA downtown, eager for my swim. It’s $25. $25!!!!! Too surprised to ask if I can just have a shower, I leave. Geez, can I really continue to get by on baby wipes? Maybe. Or maybe I’ll come back later and cough up. I walk south, quickly getting a crick in my neck from trying to see everything around me.

Eventually I run into Zuccotti Park, without even trying. It’s late morning, and my first take on it is surprise at how small it is: maybe a hundred people that look like they’ve actually taken up residence? Maybe more, it’s hard to tell. Some are curled up asleep, many talking with passersby, many look a little bit fringey… my peeps for sure, I feel immediately affectionate towards them, but I’m surprised that these are the ones that have inspired such hope and action across the globe. I’m too shy to walk up and say “here I am!” … in fact now that I’m here I’m not sure what I have to offer. My involvement in protests has always just been about adding my body, or my voice, to the crowd: a non-verbal but loud “I agree!” Non-verbal because for me the issues at stake are too vast, I don’t know how to articulate them. Another body here right now wouldn’t be helpful, unless it was doing¬†something. For the time being I leave, confused.

A few blocks away is the Financial District and the actual Wall Street, a surreal, spooky place. The streets are strangely narrow, incongruous with the massive stone spires that line them. It’s a sunny day but everything, everything, is in shadow. There are no protesters here, but foot traffic has been corralled with barricades and police on horseback wait in the street. Vehicle traffic is totally absent: since 911 three kinds of heavy fortifications have been built right into the middle of the street, and all three are being implemented now. There is the strong sense that something is about to happen. In contrast to this atmosphere of martial law, the tourists are lively from behind the barricades, taking photos of the cops just like any other attraction.

In the afternoon I go back to Zuccotti Park. This time I pay more attention to the periphery: squads of police vehicles, with hydraulic watchtowers at each corner of the block. In the park, things have picked up. There are far more people who clearly identify as supporters, whether they’re living at the park or not. But the real magic is in the conversations that are happening everywhere, spilling out of every spare corner of the park. Suits and tourists and construction workers are talking to the OWS supporters and to each other, with passion but rarely anger, having this cross-class conversation about corporate greed that would have been impossible a month ago. While I’m there Jessie Jackson turns up, gives a supportive sound bite that I can’t hear, and disappears. I’m astonished again at the magnitude of what these people have accomplished.

I wander downtown for a while, and return to the park at 7 for the General Assembly. I’m fascinated by this process whereby a group of hundreds makes decisions together, where everyone has a voice and the usual ‘majority rules’ idea of democracy isn’t good enough. The reality of it is just as long and frustrating as it is beautiful. For example one idea about using some of their donation money to keep hot herbal teas available for those living in the park gets discussed for the better part of an hour. The people facilitating (guests from Occupy movements in other cities) are learning this process as they go. Sometimes they get lost in the points of clarification, or points of process, each one of which is an interruption in the continuity of decision-making, but each one respected as a valid contribution, and each one helping everyone learn a little bit more about how to make it work. With commitment and tenacity, this is the process by which the group moves forward. Here is one of their major accomplishments, a document that describes a realistic path to non-violent revolution.¬†(Anyone who thinks these people don’t know what they want should read this)

I head back to the subway and to my little home in the Bronx, thinking about what my role is going to be in all of this. All I know for sure is that I’ve learned enough here, the trick will be to bring it home.

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